We continue this week's Mountain West round-up with the West Division, in which Fresno State still appears to be the team to beat. UNLV is still hot headed into a game against Hawaii, while Nevada and San Jose State are among the struggling parties.
Note that this was written before San Diego State's game with Air Force was finalized, so I've included a link to Stefanie Loh's latest story.
Fresno State wideout Davante Adams had a streak of 11 consecutive games with a touchdown reception snapped in the Bulldogs' victory at Hawaii, but came back with 16 catches for 185 yards and three touchdowns in a 61-14 victory at Idaho.
Adams had seven receptions for 133 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter and 13 for 176 yards and three touchdowns by halftime.
One reason: the Vandals, for whatever reason, played man against Adams through most of the game.
Quarterback Derek Carr and Adams took advantage.
"I don't have to say a word to Derek," Adams said. "He knows before I do most of the time coming out of the sideline. That dude knows so much. He's so smart in football that he can tell me beforehand when I'm still trying to recognize the coverage and getting lined up, he's telling me, giving me an audible to a different route to run because of the coverage we're seeing. I'm still looking at it thinking 'Why's he doing this?' Then I see (the defense) rotates as the play is happening. I don't have to say a word to him. I just trust him. I leave it in his hands and I just run the route he tells me to do. "
The 16 receptions tied a school record set in 1984 by Larry Willis against Montana State and matched in 1987 by Ron Jenkins at Pacific. The three touchdown receptions were a career high.
"When that happens you just got to take advantage and let them know you can't do that type of stuff against the receivers we have here," Adams said. "It felt good to see some single coverage, because it gets frustrating sometimes when they have guys over the top and below you inside, all over the place. At the time, you got to take it as a compliment as well."
Next game: Oct. 19 vs. UNLV
Notable: Adams is closing in on the all-time record for touchdown receptions at Fresno State, the three he had at Idaho bringing his career total to 21 in just 18 games. The record of 25 was set by Henry Ellard (1979-'82), then matched by Charlie Jones (1992-'95) and Bernard Berrian (1999-'03), all of whom have a number of games played on Adams. ... With a bye week before facing UNLV on Oct. 19 in its homecoming game, Fresno State will practice on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The emphasis at least early in the week will be on fundamentals and getting some reps for the players redshirting and in the developmental program. "We improved last week, which was our goal," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "We need to improve this week, especially our depth, and then we need to start honing in on UNLV at the end of the week and go into next week gaining a couple days."
- Robert Kuwada, Fresno Bee
Hawaii's quarterback drama extends to a third week as the Rainbow Warriors prepare for Saturday's road game against UNLV.
Taylor Graham, who started the first three games, did not play in the past two because of an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder. Although he was cleared to practice last week, he did not participate in contact drills. He was used as a spotter (in the coaches' booth) during this past week's loss to San Jose State.
Quarterbacks Sean Schroeder and Ikaika Woolsey were both in the starting lineup. Woolsey was the quarterback and Schroeder aligned as a wideout. After Woolsey ran the ball on a draw, he exited and Schroeder moved to quarterback.
Schroeder was 28-of-50 for 342 yards and three touchdowns. But he was picked off three times and sacked twice.
Whether Graham is available or Schroeder starts, Woolsey has been told he will have a significant role against UNLV. Of the four quarterbacks on the active roster, Woolsey is the best runner (4.15-yard average on non-sack scrambles) and has the strongest arm (capable of throwing 75 yards).
Eleven players caught passes against SJSU. Freshman receiver Keith Kirkwood's availability is iffy because of concussion-like symptoms.
The Warriors are expected to make some changes on defense. They were in nickel and dime schemes the past two games against no-huddle opponents. They would like to use more of their base (4-3) schemes this week.
Next game: at UNLV, 6 p.m. MT Saturday (MW Digital Network)
Notable: The Warriors have used two running backs recently because of injuries to Joey Iosefa (foot), Marcus Langkilde (shoulder) and Faga Wily (concussion). They've been creative with receivers Chris Gant and Bubba Poueu-Luna used on reverses and fly sweeps. There is some consideration to moving Poueu-Luna or slotback Samson Anguay to running back. Anguay, who caught his first collegiate pass last week, missed the past two seasons because of ACL surgeries to both knees.
- Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Coach Brian Polian and his staff will be out and about looking for new Wolf Pack football players this week as Nevada has a bye ahead of the Oct. 19 game at Boise State.
Polian, whose team is 3-3, 2-1 in the Mountain West's West Division, said the 2014 recruiting class will be about 22 to 24 players, which would replace the departing seniors as well as players who have washed out. Between January, when he took the job, and the start of fall camp, about eight players have left the program either voluntarily or through disciplinary measures. Another, offensive lineman Darren Denucci, is injured and could not join the team this season.
Because of that, Polian said there are only 78 or 79 scholarship players this season, well below the maximum allowable (85).
"It's going to be a big class," he said at his weekly Quarterback Club Luncheon on Monday. "We've got our work cut out for us recruiting wise."
Polian said the No. 1 recruiting priority for next season is offensive line, where six players who were either with the Wolf Pack in 2012 or set to join the team in 2013 never made it to fall camp. He said he generally wants to avoid junior college transfers, but could go after four or five JC recruits with as many as two of them being offensive linemen.
He also took the opportunity to respond to a question about the team he inherited, saying: "This is a tightrope I have to walk. Every member of our program that is doing things right, I love them as if they were my own children. You'll never hear me say, ‘I didn't recruit the guy.' But there is a myth out there that I inherited a well-oiled machine. And that is a myth, because there were issues with this program when I arrived."
Polian went on to say there isn't a right way or a wrong way to do things, just that he would have done things differently. Former coach Chris Ault, he said, had 10 more scholarships committed to offensive players. His goal is to have a 41-40-4 ratio (offensive players, defensive players and specialists). He also felt there was a "recruiting gap," that the team is missing an entire recruiting class on the offensive line, an issue exacerbated by the loss of the six linemen.
"Guys were character mistakes, academic problems, social problems," he said. "... There's tradition and there's a history of winning, but there were some issues. So, I'm trying to walk that fine line of, I love every kid that is putting forth the effort right now, but there's no doubt that we have to address some things. That's what we're trying to do moving forward, and it's possible we could turn over this roster by a third by this time next year."
Next game: Oct. 19 at Boise State.
Notable: Senior tight end Kolby Arendse suffered a lower leg injury on the Wolf Pack's first offensive possession last week and is feared lost for the season. ... A week after getting caught on camera cursing at the officials, Polian was flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct during the 51-44 overtime loss at San Diego State. He said he apologized to athletic director Doug Knuth and university president Marc Johnson, but said he would not apologize for the passion he has for his team and his job. ... As part of the bye, players will have this Friday, Saturday and Sunday off. ... Senior offensive tackle Joel Bitonio is one of at least two players who played all 209 offensive snaps the last two weeks (100 vs. Air Force, 109 vs. SDSU).
- Dan Hinxman, Reno Gazette-Journal
When spring football ended at San Jose State, none of the three running backs who combined to rush for 230 yards Saturday against Hawaii were on the depth chart.
But injuries to the Spartans' top four backs and the transfer of a player once ticketed to be the future workhouse has completely changed the dynamic of SJSU's offense.
"This is a great learning lesson for the future," coach Ron Caragher said. "The tailbacks who contributed Saturday night, at the beginning of the year on the depth chart, were 6, 7 and 8 with a guy who wasn't even listed on the depth chart."
The freshman trio of Tim Crawley (21 carries for 93 yards), Jarrod Lawson (12 for 87) and Thomas Tucker (12 for 48) produced the Spartans' best running attack of the season.
SJSU remains without starter Tyler Ervin, who was injured in the season opener. Jason Simpson started the past three games but was limited to special teams duty against Hawaii because of an injury. Osirius Burke and Alvin Jelks also missed Saturday's game due to injury.
Jalynn McCain, the No. 5 running back in the spring who redshirted as a freshman last year, transferred to Houston over the summer. Former coach Mike MacIntyre recruited McCain and expected him to be a future star. He was even in the mix to play as a true freshman but didn't fit in well with Caragher's offense.
That's opened the door for Crawley, Lawson and Tucker, a most unlikely trio.
Crawley is a former walk-on wide receiver who was awarded a scholarship just before the start of the season and then converted to running back. He's only 5-foot-7 and 169 pounds.
Lawson is a redshirt freshman who remains a walk-on.
Tucker is a true freshman who was recruited as a defensive back. He was switched to wide receiver in fall camp, impressed as a scout team running back and saw his first field action Saturday after originally being ticketed to redshirt.
Next game: at Colorado State, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: Cornerback Bené Benwikere was cleared to travel with the team to Hawaii but didn't play. He could be available against Colorado State, but with a bye week to follow, the Spartans may play it safe with their star corner. ... Simpson, the team's leading rusher, was cleared to play against Hawaii but was held out because of a lack of practice time. He may have some work to do to regain a prominent role after the performance of the three fill-in backs.
- Jimmy Durkin, San Jose Mercury News
UNLV is a 9-point favorite over Hawaii on Saturday, but the Rebels know better than to overlook the Rainbow Warriors.
This is a team, after all, that ran all over the Rebels in winning 48-10 in Honolulu last season. Hawaii led 31-0 at halftime.
"I can't imagine there would be anything but extreme motivation to go play this weekend for lots of reasons, actually," UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. "It was a bad performance by us. We went into that game thinking we were going to have a good chance to win it. They just went out and kicked our tails."
The setting is so different for this meeting.
UNLV stumbled to the end last season, finishing with two victories for the third year in a row and the seventh time in nine seasons. Now the Rebels (3-2, 1-0 Mountain West) are on a three-game winning streak for the first time since 2003.
But they need to keep the momentum going, especially going into what appears to be a more difficult second half of the season. UNLV is completing a four-game stretch of games that were deemed winnable, and the Rebels are 3-0.
Last season's game, though, is a reminder to take Hawaii (0-5, 0-3) seriously.
"I think they're awfully good," Hauck said. "If you guys (media) have been watching the same film I've been watching for the last week, you would agree with that. So we'll have our hands full on Saturday, and we need to have a great week of preparation and get ready to go."
Next game: vs. Hawaii, 6 p.m. MT Saturday (Mountain West Digital Network)
Notable: UNLV will try to win four games in a row for the first time since 2000. The last time the Rebels won four regular-season games in a row occurred in 1984. ... UNLV has been penalized just once over the past 10 quarters and is second nationally in fewest penalties per game (2.6) and penalty yards per game (24.8). ... Tim Cornett is second on the school's career rushing chart with 2,947 yards. Mike Thomas holds the record with 3,149 yards in 1973 and 1974.
- Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal
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